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Paula Winston, 1949 - 2020
The heart & soul of the Inland Waterway Treasure Company
June 18, 2020

O
riental’s oldest existing marine supply store wasn’t always at the corner of Water St. & Hodges St. And it wasn’t always the Provision Company.

The store began decades ago in what is now the Village Gallery. Jay and Paula Winston made it happen. Paula Winston In the mid-to-late 80s, the couple created one of the core businesses in Oriental: The Inland Waterway Treasure Company.

Jay says Paula made a lot more money than he did in The Treasure Company. “I used to kid her – and it was the truth – she couldn’t run a damn ice cream stand, but she knew what people wanted. She knew how to sell it and she knew how to merchandise it.”

In 2006, Jay and Paula sold their business and moved to Key West, splitting their time between there and Blowing Rock, NC.

Paula died at their home in Blowing Rock in May. She was 71.

Out on a blind date
Jay and Paula met in 1975. He was working as a concert promoter after quitting a career as a lawyer. He’d been calling for her roommate, who never seemed to be home. Paula kept answering. So she was the one who got the invitation to Aycock Auditorium in Greensboro to see Jay’s latest musical promotion: the Allman Brothers Band.

Paula Winston
Jay and Paula in the Virigin Islands in the late 70s – early 80s.

At the time, Paula was the head buyer in the region for the department store Jordan Marsh. The pair dated on and off until Jay left Greensboro for Youngsville, NC in January of 1978. He left to run the family business – Youngsville Milling Company – when his father fell ill. On May 28 of the same year, Paula and Jay were married. (They would have been married 42 years this May, but Paula passed away on the 11th.)

The fall after they married, Jay wanted to sail to the Virgin Islands. He, Paula, and another couple made the trip down. They’d decided to go snorkeling at Norman Island. Jay and his friends were in the water, ready to go and Paula was still in the boat. “There’s one thing I probably didn’t tell you,” she said to Jay. “I don’t know how to swim.”

Jay says Paula took swimming lessons three different times. “She never learned to swim in her whole life.”

Paula Winston

Paula and Jay lived in Youngsville, Greensboro, and Raleigh in the early years of their marriage, but had kept a boat in Oriental since 1979.

“Over the years we had 42 different boats,” Jay said. “We didn’t know anything about cruising – we’d always raced.” Their boating interests led them to the Annapolis Boat Show between 1986 or 87. There they met a man from Little Washington called Shitty Smith. “I never did know his real name,” said Jay.

Shitty Smith ran Pamlico Marine in Little Washington. He had an idea. He thought Oriental needed a marine store. He began talks to persuade the Winstons to open such a store in Oriental.

Oriental and the Inland Waterway Treasure Company
Paula and Jay mulled it over, and one morning over brunch, Paula made a decision. “We were drinking Bloody Marys and talking and Paula took a napkin, got her a pencil and a piece of paper.” She listed their bills and income, the things they needed, and the things they could leave behind – like a car – if they moved to Oriental. “And she said, ‘I’m gonna quit my job and move to Oriental and open this supply store and you can do whatever you want.’ And I said that sounded like a good idea.”

Paula Winston

They rented half of the building that now houses the Village Gallery. Paula made good on her word, quit her job, and moved to Oriental. Jay stayed on at his job for another year before making the move. They named their new venture the Inland Waterway Treasure Company.

In the late 80s they shared the space in the Village Gallery with a florist. When that business moved out, the Treasure Company took over the full retail area. It had begun as a marine supply, but began accumulating clothing consignment pieces.

Paula Winston
The building where the Village Gallery is once housed the Inland Waterway Treasure Company. The sign still hangs on the building.
Paula Winston
A closer look at the old sign.

Soon after, Paula wanted to expand the store’s offerings. “She wanted to buy Laurel Birch,” said Jay. “And I thought it was crazy as hell because it was just jewelry, coffee cups, and sweatshirts, and t-shirts and all this. And it was a lot of money.

“And damn if she didn’t sell that whole thing out in a week. It was just like that. She just knew what would work and what wouldn’t.”

Eventually they bought Harborside Grocery, the business at the corner of Water Street & Hodges Street. They ran the grocery for a couple years, but ultimately decided to make that the marine store – and called it The Inland Waterway Provision Company. The existing Inland Waterway Treasure Company sold clothes, shoes, jewelry, and gifts from the building next to The Bean. Across the street, a few steps from the town dock, the Provision Company sold marine supplies and kayaks.

Paula Winston
With employees at the Inland Waterway Provision Company. From left: Leslie Cameron, Ross Pease, Paula Winston, Jay Winston.

The Cartwright House Bed and Breakfast also belonged to the Winstons for a time. Only then they called it the Inland Waterway Inn, making it easier for employees to monitor calls on the 800 line. One answer, “Inland Waterway” sufficed as a phone greeting for all three businesses. Depending on what the caller asked for, employees knew what notes to take.

Hurricane Isabel came along in 2003, sending flood waters into the Treasure Company. Paula and Jay decided to abandon the building and move both sides of the business into the Inland Waterway Provision Company. To make room, the kayak portion of the business was handed over to two ladies calling themselves the Pirate Queens. They took the kayaks and set up a business in the Wit’s End; Pirate Queen Paddling.

Paula Winston
The Inland Waterway Provision Company in its current incarnation. The dragon compass and banner sign above the windows were commissioned by Paula and Jay Winston.
Paula Winston
Jay and Paula hired Sue Henry to create the dragon compass for the Provision Company. Over two decades later, and with new owners, it’s still there.

Jay and Paula ran the Inland Waterway Provision Company until 2005. “Paula woke up one day, and we were sitting out on the porch on the river, and she said, ‘Honey, I’m tired. We’ve been doing this for 40 years, the two of us together, and I’m just tired,’” Jay said. “And within 3 days, we’d listed everything we owned for sale.”

During their time here, the Winstons accumulated several properties and businesses. They ended up selling the Inland Waterway Provision Company, the Inland Waterway Inn, a marina on Smith Creek, several rental homes, and their own house on the river.

Paula Winston
A mug with their old 800 number. A ferry service in Nova Scotia had the same number – except 888. Jay got tired of telling callers they had the wrong number, and threatened to take ferry reservations.

By 2006, they were living in Key West, Florida with a second home in Blowing Rock, NC.

Catherine Hackett worked with Paula in the 90s. She said, “As a person Paula was generous, kind, sympathetic, and amazingly tolerant. She was an excellent hostess and I enjoyed parties shared at their lovely river front home. Paula was Jay’s steadying rudder.”

Leslie Cameron, another long time employee said, “She was a calm entity in IWTC. Always gracious with a welcoming smile. No one was a stranger and there were always lots of hugs.”


Story by Allison DeWeese.
For more memories of Paula, read on.
You can send in your memory to info@towndock.net.
A couple of years after I moved to Oriental in 1989 I came to work for Jay and Paula Winston at the Inland Waterway Treasure Company. Jay oversaw the ship’s chandlery and Paula managed clothing, jewelry, and gifts. I loved working for both of them! Paula was beautiful, fun, and had a fantastic eye when it came to purchasing. I have never since seen a store with more beautiful t-shirts and jewelry. She had a flair for merchandising. When the Oops catalogue franchise opened up, Paula had a branch at the Treasure Company which was popular with the locals and also the young Mexican women who were just arriving in town to work at the crab houses.

As a person Paula was generous, kind, sympathetic, and amazingly tolerant. She was an excellent hostess and I enjoyed parties shared at their lovely river front home. Paula was Jay’s steadying rudder. She tempered his exuberance but in a very loving way. I have missed both of them since I moved away and am so very sorry that I won’t see Paula again. I hold Jay and her family close in my heart.

Catherine Hackett
I don’t have stories about Paula as much as I have flashes of moments/memories. First and foremost was her love and fierce protection of Jay….a wild child with a brilliant brain. She was a calm entity in IWTC. Always gracious with a welcoming smile. No one was a stranger and there were always lots of hugs.

One year she clipped her hair short hoping for a cute cap of curls – ended up with a buzz cut and everyone earnestly asking her about her health.

When jewelry vendors would come to IWTC to show us their product – she and I would buy as much for ourselves as the store. Thank god we had different tastes! So much laughter as we would pick out clothes, shoes, gifts.

Jane, Ross, Rodney, and I were always treated like family. Her generosity of spirit will be missed. It turns out that the day she passed I was wearing a shirt and earrings purchased (with her input) during a visit with them in Key West……makes me wonder.
Thanks for acknowledging her amazing life.

Leslie Cameron
So sorry to hear of Paula’s passing. Prayers to Jay and family. I worked for Jay and Paula back in 2002 or so when they had the Provision Company and Treasure Company. I worked at the Provision Co. with Ross Pease, Pam Hawkins, Larry and Rodney. Leslie Cameron was at the Treasure Co. we had a great crew. Jay and Paula were good people and did a lot for Oriental back in the day. Once again prayers for Jay.

Dave Wright

Posted Thursday June 18, 2020 by Allison DeWeese


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